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Biography of Mgr Rodrigo Arango Velásquez, p.s.s.

R. Arango Velasquez



Arango Velasquez
© 2010 Les Prêtres de Saint- Sulpice de Montréal


By Fathers Alfredo Botero PSS and Jaime Alfonso Mora, PSS
English translation by the Workgroup "Communications"


Bishop Rodrigo Arango Velásquez was born on March 4, 1925 in Betulia (Department of Antioquia), Colombia, in the Diocese of Jericho. By his mother, he is the nephew of the Blessed Juan Bautista Velásquez, brother of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, who was martyred during the Spanish Civil War. Bishop Arango did his classical studies at the Minor Seminary of Jericho and his philosophy as well as the first year of theology at the Major Seminary of the same diocese.

In 1947 he was accepted by the Archbishop of Manizales, Most Rev. Luis Concha Córdoba, to do the second year of theology at the Major Seminary of this Archdiocese, directed at the time by the diocesan clergy. A year later, in 1948, he was sent by his bishop to Montreal in order to finish his ecclesiastical studies at the Major Seminary of Montreal and earn a license in theology. It was in this city that he was ordained priest on June 3, 1950 by the then Archbishop of Montreal, Most Rev. Paul-Émile Léger, PSS, who later became a cardinal.

Back in Manizales, the Archbishop appointed him as a full-time formation team member in the Major Seminary where he performed his duties, without yet being a Sulpician, from 1951 to May 1957, at the time of the Sulpician Rectors Fathers Fernand Paradis, PSS and Alfred Morin, PSS From 1957 to 1959 by the will of Archbishop Luis Concha, later cardinal of Bogotá, he served as rector of the Minor Seminary, an institution which was then in the hands of the clergy of the Archdiocese.

In early 1959 he was accepted as a candidate in the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice, and he went to Montreal to do the Solitude at the Seminary of Philosophy in Côte-des-Neiges Street, but he had to interrupt this experience in January 1960 in order to return to Manizales to replace for one year Father Guy Arbour, PSS, who died accidentally. At the end of that year, he was sent to the Seminary of Bogotá that Saint Sulpice had just accepted to direct. He was a member of the first team of directors of this seminary with Father Alfred Morin, PSS

He was admitted as a temporary member of the Society. Then, in 1963, he was sent to Rome to begin a doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University. But he had to interrupt his studies because the Provincial Council asked him to return to Manizales in mid-1964 to assume the position of rector of the Major Seminary, because Father Édouard Gagnon, PSS, who was the superior in Manizales until then, had to leave.

At the end of 1967, Father Arango was appointed rector of the Major Seminary of Bogotá, a position he held for seven years (1968-1974). At the General Assembly of Saint-Sulpice in 1972, he was the first Latin American Sulpician to be elected as Consultor General. During these eleven years as rector in Manizales and Bogotá, he was particularly well inspired: indeed, he was a sure guide who oriented the transition inaugurated by Vatican II to pass from the traditional Tridentine seminary (known in Latin America “conciliar” by reference to the Council of Trent), which was in crisis, to make it evolve in a moderate line, away from the other extreme, where the seminaries in many places were situated. When the bishops of this South American continent were asking Rome (the Congregation of Seminaries) how to organize their seminaries, the Cardinal Prefect Gabriel-Marie Garrone invited them to visit, upon their return, the Seminary of Bogotá in order to observe and to learn.

It is Father Arango who had the idea to organize a seminary around four fundamental dimensions, namely: human formation (community), spiritual formation, intellectual formation and pastoral formation, while seeking to maintain the balance between these four elements: a model which then spread everywhere, so much so that it was assumed by the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis of 1992.

Once his term at the Seminary of Bogotá was completed, Father Rodrigo Arango went to Medellin, to his mother’s house for a sabbatical year of a well deserved rest (1975).

At that time, the Canadian Province of Saint Sulpice, in response to the insistent invitation of the Archbishop of Brasília, Dom José Newton de Almeida Baptista, agreed to assume the direction of a new seminary in Brazil, a country where there was already a large number of seminars and where tests of various methods of formation had multiplied. To the new seat of government and diplomacy of the country, should also correspond, in this new capital, a major seminary well directed, that of Our Lady of Fatima (Nossa Señora de Fátima).

Father Arango agreed to be it’s first Sulpician rector from 1976 to 1980. His vast experience in the field of initial and ongoing formation allowed a solid beginning for this seminary organized according to the experience, the pedagogy, the practice and the spirituality proper to the Society of Saint Sulpice. During his rectorship, Father Rodrigo Arango defined particularly well the organization of the pastoral dimension, both from the theoretical point of view and in terms of pastoral practice. His work in Brasília was fruitful and much appreciated.

Father Arango enjoyed a great esteem, even beyond the borders of Colombia, especially because he had participated in various international activities for directors of seminaries. Because of his status as a member of the General Council, he also possessed a great knowledge of the Company as a whole and of the Church, especially of the challenges that presented themselves in priestly formation.

Given the insistence of the Archbishop of Medellín and of the authorities of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), with the permission of the Superior Provincial, our confrere agreed to be appointed director of the Theological and Pastoral Institute for the Latin America (ITEPAL), which was situated in Medellín, but he could not take possession of this new position. Indeed, on January 29, 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Medellín and Titular Bishop of Casa in Numidia. He received episcopal ordination on March 25, 1981 from Most Rev. Alfonso López Trujillo, Archbishop of that city and later a cardinal.

Four years later, on March 25, 1985, he became bishop of the Diocese of Buga (Department of Valle) as the second residential bishop. Bishop Arango soon showed his qualities as an organizer. He was interested especially in the economic and pastoral aspects of the diocese. He established eight parishes. He founded the Julián Mendoza Institute (named after its predecessor) for the New Evangelization and the formation and promotion of the lay faithful. In 1997 he founded the Major Seminary of the Twelve Apostles. Until then, the diocese had sent its seminarians to the Major Seminary in Cali: Bishop Arango decided to found his own seminary in choosing a new modality called “seminary in pastoral environment” (seminario ambiental) which did not succeed. The idea was original, but he lacked the necessary and well prepared personnel to join the team of directors. He endowed this seminary with a fund for priestly formation.

Bishop Arango devoted great efforts for the construction of a building that would serve as a retirement home and for pastoral meetings, called La Umbria, in the city of Tuluá. Finally, he began and has supported the foundation of a service for beggars in Buga, called the Saint Lawrence House.

Approaching his 75th birthday, in obedience to the canonical norm, he presented his resignation in 2001 and remained in that city as bishop emeritus until his death, which occurred on December 27, 2008. His remains rest in the Cathedral of Buga.
ed @ Peter Krasuski Source http://www.sulpc.org/ed/evsulpc_arango_en.html
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